The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/The First Vineyard

The Jewish Fairy Book by Gerald Friedlander
XX. The First Vineyard (from Tanchuma)



ON the same day when old Father Noah came out of the Ark, he found close to the spot where it rested a large vine. It had been carried away from the Garden of Eden by the rain which came with the Flood. The vine still had its clusters of grapes and its roots. Noah tasted the grapes and rejoiced in his heart whilst eating the wonderful fruit. "This is so lovely," cried he in delight, "I will plant a vineyard and have plenty of grapes and golden wine." He found a fine hill for his vineyard and began to plant the roots. After an hour's work he rested a while. He saw a strange-looking fellow coming along the road and when he came to the hill he called aloud:

"Good-morning, Father Noah, what art thou doing?"

"First tell me, whence comest thou?"

"From walking up and down the earth."

"How didst thou escape the Flood?"

"I was in the Holy Land, where the waters of the Flood did not come."

"Thou dost ask what am I doing. I am planting a vineyard."

"What dost thou expect to get therefrom?"

"Why, grapes, of course. Out of the grapes I shall get wine which makes the heart merry."

"Come, Father Noah, this hill is very large. Let me also help thee in thy work and we will become partners of the vineyard. Thou art old and thy sons do not help thee. Thou wilt be glad of my help, for I know how to plant a vineyard."

"That's more than I do."

"So I can see."

"Very well, I agree."

The stranger was none other than Satan. He left Noah for a few minutes and when he returned he brought with him a lamb. He killed it beneath the vine which Noah had planted. He then went away and brought back a lion. He slew it also beneath the vine. He then fetched a swine and killed it. Finally he brought an ape and slew it also. He mixed the blood of these four animals and poured it over the ground of the vineyard. Meanwhile Father Noah was looking on with surprise. He turned to his partner and asked:

"Why hast thou done this strange performance? What does it all mean?"

"What I have done points to the different effects which wine has upon all who drink it."

"Please explain. I do not understand thy meaning."

"Before a man drinks wine he is like a lamb, out evil desire. He is harmless and tame. Now let a man drink one glass of good wine. He feels strong like a lion and thinks that there is no man on all the earth like himself. Now let this man take a second glass of wine. What then? He has taken more than he ought to have done. He is then like a swine in the mire. If then he take a third glass he will become drunk. He then behaves like the ape. He jumps about and dances, he plays the fool and speaks nonsense. In fact he does not know what he is doing. Dost thou understand, Father Noah?"

"I hear what thou sayest and shall bear it well in mind."

Noah and Satan then went their different ways. Noah is long dead, nevertheless Satan continues to be the partner of every one who plants a vineyard to this day.

Tanchuma, Noah, § 13.